Thaap Conference held on portrait of Lahore

Ar. Saba Sami

THAAP two day International Conference titled 'Portrait of Lahore - The Capital City of the Punjab' started on the11th November and continued on 12thof November 2011. Scholars and Delegates from UK, Sweden, USA, India, Iran, Belgium and Germany presented papers along with the scholars and historians from Pakistan. Related and allied functions in collaboration with the Lahore Arts Council, Punjab Arts Council, Ajoka Theater, Lok Rehas, Lok Sujag, Sanj Publications and educational institutions continued till the 18th of November 2011. An exhibition "Aarsi - Kaleidoscopic Images: Lahore seen through the eyes of the Students" in collaboration with Beaconhouse University, National College of Arts, University of Engineering & Technology, University of South Asia, Punjab University, Kinnaird College and Naqsh School of Art. A theater performance at Hazuri Bagh was also arranged on the 14th of November. This week long event was concluded with a Mushaira. The cultural events were open to all.

The 1st day of the THAAP conference began with an introduction of THAAP presented by Prof Pervaiz Vandal. He spoke about the aim of this Conference which endeavors to initiate a discourse amongst academics on historiography and the teaching of Art, Design and Architecture. He emphasized that the teacher is the backbone of education and fragmented knowledge has distorted our understanding of ourselves. It was critical that we should try to acquire a better understanding of our own situation and the complexities of the Pakistani society instead of looking for outside sources.

The schedule for the day comprised of 4 concentrated sessions of paper presentations and discourse on vital issues concerning the city of Lahore.

The 1st session was chaired by Prof. Dr. Mubarik Ali, a renowned historian and a scholar. The session opened with the poems of Prof. Shahnawaz Zaidi which he read with his usual measured emotional renderings capturing his 'Lahori Experience'. Prof. Shahnawaz Zaidi is a renowned artist and a painter, a sculptor, a poet and actor and well respected amongst Lahore's cultural circles. This was followed by a paper by Nida Rehman, an architect with a Masters from the MIT University who spoke about the two rivers of Lahore, the Ravi and the Canal. The last presentation of the 1st session was by Prof Dr Jawaid Haider, an architect and a professor from USA. He touched upon the sensitive issue of street children and their right to public space. The session ended with a discussion and a tea break.

The 2nd session was chaired by Prof. Dr. Priyaleen Singh, a conservation and landscape architect from Delhi, India, and was initiated with a paper by Saba Samee, an architect and a buildings archaeologist discussing the tomb of Anarkali and that of the tomb of Jahangir and the urban symbolism that it represented. This paper was followed by a paper by Hala Bashir of the Beaconhouse University who presented a historical perceptive of the house form in her paper on Post Colonial Domestic Architecture in Lahore. It was followed by a joint research paper of Prof Dr Neelum Naz and Ar. Saadia Ahmed on the historical and spatial portrait of Naulakha Bazaar of Lahore. After discussion this session was ended with a lunch break.

The 3rd session was chaired by Prof. Dr. Abdul Rehman, Head of the Department of Architecture at UET Lahore, and was started with the paper by Imran Yasin Sheikh, an engineer, discussing the water vision of the city of Lahore. The next speaker, Ahmad Azhar, whose paper was presented by Samra Khan, an architect and Head of the Department of Architecture and Design, CIIT Islamabad Campus. The paper titled 'Railway and the making of the modern Lahore' gave a perspective on the impact of the railways on the urban landscape of Lahore. A presentation about Lahore and its Pre and Post Industrial phases was made by Waqar Ahmed, a business manager and expert in the London real estate market. A discussion session followed the paper and the session was concluded with a tea break.

The last session of the day was chaired by Prof Dr Khalid Bajwa, an urbanist, an architect and Head of the Department of Architecture and Design, CIIT, Lahore Campus, and the first paper presenter, Dr Afshan Bokhari, an art historian, was not able to come due to visa issues, however, her paper was presented by Prof Dr Anis Siddiqi, Head of the Department of Architecture, University of Punjab. The second paper was presented by Dr Nadhra Shahbaz Naeem discussing the Hazuri Bagh Baradari and its Sikh period architectural practices. This was followed by a paper presentation by Dr Ghafer Shahzad on the shrines shaping the city of Lahore. This session was concluded with a discussion and a dinner break.

The successful commencement of the 1st day of THAAP conference was celebrated at the end of the day with a performance by Ajoka Theater titled "Mera Rang De Basanti Chola" at Alhamra Mall Road, Hall 2.

The 2nd day of the THAAP conference followed similar schedule as day 1 of the conference with 4 sessions and every session containing three paper presentations. The 1st session was chaired by Prof Dr. Gulzar Haider, Dean, Department of Architecture, Beaconhouse National University, and the first paper was presented by Prof. Dr. Priyaleen Singh, a conservation and landscape architect from Delhi, India. Her paper presented Salam to the city of Lahore as she narrated the real life memories and experiences of her father, a pre-partition resident of Lahore and student of FC college, from 1938 till 1947. It was either the emotional deliverance of the paper presenter or the content of the memories or the belief of a person who thought that he would return to 'his city' after the 1947 riots had settled down or the emotional attachment of the audience with the subject under discussion or maybe the combination of all the above that made the entire ambience of the conference emotionally nostalgic and once again brought home the sorrow of the times of the partition. The next paper was presented by Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed presenting stories of various Lahoris who had to depart from their beloved city but still had the memories of Lahore in their hearts. Dr. Taraneh Yalda, an urban designer and an expert of Tehran city Master Plan, Tehran, Iran, presented a comparison of the two historic cities of Lahore and Tehran regarding the post and pre partition Lahore with the post and pre revolution Tehran and the changes both went through in understanding their traditional and modern context. A discussion session followed these three papers and the session was concluded with a tea break.

The 2nd session was chaired by Prof Dr Rahat Masud, Head of the Department of Fine Arts at the University of the Punjab. The first paper was presented by Sajjad Kausar, an architect and an expert in the Mughal gardens and landscape, discussing the historical gardens of the city of Lahore. He stressed that the conservation of the historic garden is as important as conservation of the monument it surrounds and should be sensitively handled. His paper was followed by a paper presentation by Amna Jahangir regarding the architectural diplomacies of the British Raj and how it influenced in the evolution of the city of Lahore and its architectural features. The last presentation of the session was by Dr Balvinder Singh who started off his paper with a humorous personalization of his coming to the city of Lahore and then proceeded to describing the two historic walled cities of Amritsar and Lahore. The session was ended with a discussion and a lunch break.

The third session was chaired by Prof Shaukat Nawaz Raja, an architect and advisor at the CIIT Lahore Campus. The first paper was sent by Bobby Singh discussing the legacy of Sikhs and was presented by Maliha Vahla. Mansoor Ahmed presented his paper about the trends and influences of the film industry of Lahore popularly known as Lollywood upon the population of Lahore. The last paper of the session was presented by Faisal Sajjad regarding the Public Sculptures of Lahore and their iconic representation and evolution through the history of the city of Lahore. A discussion followed by a tea break concluded this session.

The last session of the day and also of the conference was chaired by Dr Anis Siddiqui, Head of the Department of Architecture, University of the Punjab. The first paper was presented by Prof Dr Kanwal Khalid, keeper of paintings, Lahore Museum and visiting professor in various leading universities, discussed the various periods of development of the portrait paintings practiced in the city of Lahore. The second paper was presented by Prof Dr Khalid Bajwa, an urbanist and Head of the Department of Architecture and Design, CIIT Lahore Campus, discussing the construction and evolution of the urban knowledge. The third paper was presented by Anila Yasin, an architect and lecturer at CIIT Lahore Campus. She touched upon Lahore city's street scape and the lost tangible and intangible values of the public spaces existing in this city. The last paper was presented by Sumera Jawad discussing the rise and fall of cinema on Mcleod Road. The session ended with the wrap up presented by the Rapportuer General, Ar. Maliha Vahla a few lines from her wrap up are qouted here "Be it any type of public art and architecture constructed in British time or Mughal era or Hindu period or Sikh rule; they are built in Lahore and they belong here and we need to OWN THEM and take care of them as our heritage.Lahore has an attraction of its own and an immense potential to be the tourist most visited cities...”

“This conference has been an excellent platform to clarify the blurred and distorted image of Lahore that lingered in my mind; it has very beautifully crafted a portrait of Lahore where all these wonderful speakers have pitched in their share of paint and color to complete the portrait…"

“This conference has hit almost all tangible and intangibles that make Lahore. We need to restore the values and try to get rid of the traditional laziness and waiting for somebody to do it for us as pointed out by Mr. Waqar Ahmad. I agree with Amna Jehangir that there has been survival of the local cultural and aesthetics through the British rule and there has been a desire to adopt new living ways while being linked to traditions and at the same time losing some of it. In the case of, us, Lahoris we just held on much strongly on to the tradition of sluggishness rather than other valuable traditions worth sticking to. We need not wait for Sarkar Khalsa Foundation sitting in UK to come preserve our valuable heritage! All of us who live in Lahore have to take the responsibility and own our city. We need to celebrate the past and think of the future. With THAAP, this mission has already begun.”

The conference was concluded with a note of thanks, sum up of the entire conference and the future plans of THAAP by Prof Sajida Vandal.
The student's exhibition "AARSI - kaleidoscopic images - Lahore opened opened on the 13th November at 11am at Alhamra, the Mall Lahore. The exhibition was a vibrant affair attended by a large number of students from all the participating universities, the respective faculties and heads of the institutes and architects, artists. The exhibition was inaugurated by all the attending Deans and Head of the participating institutes. Students from 8 different institutes had displayed their work in this THAAP exhibition. The displayed work included architectural drawing, sculptures, relief work, photography, model making, paintings, 3D computer generated modeling, sketches and many other art forms. The theme of the exhibition connected with the theme of the THAAP conference of the 'Portrait of Lahore' and the entire work of students pieced together different colors and aspects of the historic city of Lahore.

This event was followed by the opening of the book fare and the student's performance packed cultural evening. These activities were held at the Alhamra Arts Council, the Mall road, Lahore.

COMSATS Institute of Information Technology - 'Hadh Bandi', a love story of a hindu girl and a muslim boy in the times of the Mughals, and 'Shehr de Vaar', how the British came to rule Lahore. National College of Arts - 'Kat Potli', representing a concern towards the old arts which are dying now.Punjab University - 'Dil Hai Pakistani', the drug addicted people, and 'Khirki', which was related to the Walled City of Lahore. Kinaird College - 'Diya Jaltay Rhe', about the bomb attacks in the northern areas of Pakistan. University of South Asia - 'Mohabtain Jo Fana Hui Mere Nadeem', destruction of our old buildings and built heritage of the city of Lahore.The evening was ended with a note of thanks from Prof Pervaiz Vandal.

Monday November 14, 2011, a craft exhibition was arranged at Tollinton - 3:00pm, by Punjab Arts Council and a performance in the Hazuri Bagh in the evening by Punjab Lok Rahs and Lok Sujag.

November 16, 2011, short films on Lahore were shown at Alhamra Arts Council, Hall 3, at 6:00pm. The film shown were 'Pakhiwas', 'Khadim-e-Zuljana' (Servitude), 'Life in the Gutter Gate: A story of survival', 'Rocket Pahalwan' and 'Future of the Past'.

November 17, 2011, a talk on the city of Lahore entitled as 'Views of Lahore'. There speakers had been invited. Majeed Sheikh talked about the art of storytelling and the writers who wrote about this historic city. He also talked about his memories and experiences of the Walled City and its current conditions. Khalid Ahmed talked about the attitude which matters to save the cultural heritage and also the changing culture of the city of Lahore. Shaukat Nawaz Raja talked about his association with Lahore and compared Lahore and Paris, the similarities and differences.

On the concluding day of the weeklong conference , November 18, 2011, a Mushaira had been organized at 43-G, Gulberg 3, Lahore at 7:30pm. The invited poets were Shehzad Ahmad, Amjad Islam Amjad, Khalid Ahmad, Najeeb Ahmad, Abbas Tabish, Khursheed Rizvi, Anwar Masood, Saad Ullah Shah, Moeen Nizami, Asrar Chishti, Rakhshanda Naveed, Afsheen Sajjad, Ashraf Javaid, Jamshaid Chishti, Manzar Hussain Akhtar, Ghafir Shehzad, M Shoab, Sibtain Raza, and Hassan Shahnawaz Zaidi.

The entire week of THAAP events filled with scholarly and historic conference, students exhibition, crafts and films, drama and poetry, was an ultimate event for a Lahori. The 18th of November was the last day of these events but it is only the beginning. Planning for the future THAAP Conference 2012 has already begun and throughout the next year THAAP Talk Series and organization meetings will be held in order to make the next event as successful as this one, even better, if possible.